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14 Harv. J. L. & Pub. Pol'y 58 (1991)
Separation of Race and State, The

handle is hein.journals/hjlpp14 and id is 74 raw text is: THE SEPARATION OF RACE AND STATE
My approach will be somewhat different from that of many of
the other contributors. As the title of the panel suggests, much
of the discussion has focused on the role of government policy
in narrowing socio-economic gaps among the races. My ap-
proach will differ from the position that has come to be associ-
ated with many conservatives, and indeed with many of the
other contributors to this Symposium. Some conservatives ar-
gue against current strategies to improve the socio-economic
status of African-Americans on the ground that the current pol-
icies do not actually help minorities. I must confess that I do
not find this line of argument appealing, for surely we could
devise some set of policies that would effectively transfer wealth
to minorities. Rather, I prefer to address a more basic question:
What are the consequences of having any governmental system
of wealth transfers among ethnic groups?
This question arises regardless of the effectiveness of any
particular means of making the transfers. Once I have dis-
cussed the consequences of having government ethnic transfer
policies, I will briefly discuss two related questions: Why have
governments intervened so frequently in the non-economic re-
lationships among ethnic groups? And why is it that race is so
consistently politicized, even in America, where Martin Luther
King's dream of a color-blind society resonates so strongly?
What are the consequences of having any policy of govern-
ment wealth transfers among ethnic groups? Once there is in
place a system that permits redistribution to some ethnic
groups froni others, the incentives for groups to organize
themselves politically in order to obtain such transfers dramati-
cally increase. This follows from the more general principle,
demonstrated time and again, that whenever the government
announces that one group or another may possibly be eligible
to receive some kind of transfer, people will invest effort to ob-
tain the transfers.'
Associate Professor of Economics, Center for Study of Public Choice, George Ma-
son University.
1. The following discussion is based upon my article, Racism as Rent Seeking, 27 EcoN.
INQUIRY 661 (1989).

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